Male greater sage grouse outside Walden, Colo. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt proclaimed in his Aug. 10 Friday Opinion essay, “The greatest good for endangered species,” that the Trump administration is ready to bring the Endangered Species Act up to date. That alone should give people concerned about the survival of our imperiled wildlife chills.

Mr. Bernhardt argued that these proposals would “enhance conservation of our most imperiled wildlife”; this is untrue. For decades, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has afforded threatened species the full protection of the law except where it finds, on a case-by-case basis, that such protection is not necessary. That is a prudent approach. Threatened species may become at risk of extinction in the foreseeable future. Now the Trump administration proposes to flip that approach on its head, declaring that threatened species deserve no protection except with special rules granting them some measure of security. 

Congress mandated that the decision to list a species as threatened or endangered must be made solely on science. The Trump administration is proposing allowing an analysis of economic costs, leading to inappropriate pressure on what must be a purely scientific judgment. Congress recognized that we cannot determine the relative value of individual species; all life is important. Identifying hypothetical costs without knowing where a species fits into the web of life, whether it may prove to cure disease or provide habitat for an entire ecosystem, is simply irresponsible. 

These proposals will not “enhance” the conservation of imperiled species.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, Washington

David Bernhardt’s Aug. 10 Friday Opinion essay tried to portray the idea of protecting threatened species to the same level as endangered species as a bad thing for conservation. But when do you call a plumber? When you see a serious leak or when there’s a flood? The same is the case with species: Reducing protection will lead to greater expense and higher risk of failure later. As for the higher bar for delisting: Getting endangered species to recover is hard and costly, but depleting them is a simple matter of a few bullets or a bulldozer. Protection needs to be thoroughly assured before delisting from the Endangered Species Act.

As for any Trump administration regulation changes being for the betterment of conservation, let’s just say that all the evidence so far is that anything proposed by the White House is for the benefit of developers, not the environment.

E.C.M. Parsons, Fairfax